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Will Pak President Arif Alvi be impeached for not performing his constitutional duties?

Will Pak President Arif Alvi be impeached for not performing his constitutional duties?

Pakistani President Arif Alvi did it again –“refusing” to administer the oath  of office to cabinet members of the new premier Shehbaz Sharif. Alvi excused himself from conducting his constitutional obligations by  claiming he was “sick”.

Earlier Alvi also took  “sick” leave just hours before Sharif’s scheduled oath taking ceremony as the Prime Minister of Pakistan. Ultimately, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani discharged  the obligatory presidential duties. The Pakistani Senate Chairman also administered the oath to 34 ministers on Tuesday.

With the second time the Pakistani president Alvi’s opting out of his constitutional duties has been creating a constitutional crisis with the new premier Shahbaz Sharif.

Also Read : Finally, Shehbaz Sharif takes oath as Pak PM while President stays away from the ceremony

Alvi has made it clear that as long as he is the president of the country, he will pose a challenge to the working of the  Sharif-led coalition government.  According to the Pakistani  constitution, the rules of business set out all the matters which are done on orders of the president – on the advice of the PM. Under that system, the president has limited ruling powers, and performs ceremonial duties while the Prime Minister enjoys more powers to execute decisions.

But it appears that President Alvi has been violating the constitution and deliberately creating problems for the new government on the “advice” of the former ousted premier Imran Khan. 

“The president doesn't have a lot of duties to perform, but this is one duty he has to perform. If even that he's not willing to do then they (the government) can make a case and approach the Supreme Court. It is very sad that one has to take a case against the head of the state to the court but it is a special situation — and special situations demand special resolutions,” Pakistani constitutional expert Ahmed Bilal Mehboob told The News.

"President Alvi’s conduct is an affront to this role and a clear violation of the constitutional scheme. It once again illustrates that the constitution means nothing to Imran Khan and  they are willing to make a mockery of the most fundamental rules of parliamentary democracy even if it just is to create temporary hurdles in the functioning of the new government,” says Pakistani Supreme Court lawyer Anees Jilani.

The new coalition ruling parties are unanimous that it is going to be a very challenging task to work with this president and have mulling to impeach him but the ruling coalition has not the required number in the Pakistani parliament. 

To remove the Pakistani president, there are three options – mentally or physically incapable of continuing in office, gross misconduct, violation of the constitution. In the present scenario, a case could be made for violation of the constitution but the government's numbers are not enough to cast Alvi as mentally or physically incapable of continuing in office. An impeachment requires a two-thirds majority in combined assembly and senate, which the coalition government falls short of by around 25 or so votes. They need 296 members out of 442 (342 assembly + 100 senate) members to impeach President Alvi.

The ruling parties know this and so will have to live with Alvi and his tricks till he decides to resign himself. 

According to Pakistani watchers, after Imran Khan’s ouster, Alvi wanted to resign but Khan asked him to remain and make it impossible for the Sharif led government to function smoothly. 

Also Read : Pakistan’s olive branch to India—letter from Shehbaz Sharif to PM Modi proposes “meaningful engagement”